Saturday, July 30, 2011

Arcane Fulcrums

I don't spend more on Games Workshop products than I have too, but I fully love playing Warhammer, and have developed a - sometimes begrudging - love for some of their models.  Sadly I just cannot justify the ludicrous expense of much of their product. 

The new Storm of Magic supplement is a temptation that looks like staying on the shelves of the FLGS on the grounds of crippling expense as a result.  The expansion book, lavish as it undeniably is, and the scenery devices proposed for play come to some £80; more probably than I've spent on Warhammer items all year, and close to four times what I've spent on specific GW product. 

Of course, you could use anything for the scenery, I know that, any regular on the blog would know that!  But I still fancied having a go at these models, and so when the LWGC got a set for it's own use, after they'd sat unpainted for a couple of weeks, I took it upon myself to sort them out.

Firstly I tackled the Dreadfire Portal and Eternity Stair.

One of my Dogs of War mages for scale.  The first point to make is that I didn't assemble the models, Craig did, and I can well believe him when he says they were an absolute bi-aatch to build.  The fit of some of the parts is obviously best described as vague, and whilst very well detailed, they are as a result quite thick.  It is a simple fact that in our selection several key parts were simply warped.  Dished if you prefer, but undeniably only loosely correlating in shape to intent.

As for Craig not adding the Scythes to the Portal; well he'll have to explain that himself.

As for painting, well, I kept things simple and over a black undercoat went for lots of overbrushed highlighting and a few picked out details, including hundreds (seemingly) of skulls.  More on them later.

Thereafter I painted  the Magewrath Throne and Balewind Vortex.

Physically the Magewrath Throne is the largest of all the models, and so suffers worst from the problems already mentioned.  The picture below shows some of the massive gaps the model presents you with:

 Rather better is the vortex, my favourite of the lot.  I went for a light purple vortex, in line with Craig's original intention.

These second two models used gold metallics rather than iron, and looked better for it too.

GW's obsession with skulls is well in evidence here as usual.  For GW Gothic fantasy = SKULLS!  Several possible conclusions can be drawn from this:
  • In the Warhammer world, the human skull is the single most durable object in existence, being formed of a unique matter called Skuluminium, which is tougher than diamond.  Unfortunately it can be put to no other purpose being impossible to forge or otherwise utilise, they rather serve as decoration, and occasionally serve as load bearing walls.  Or,
  • The human race is incredibly lax about body disposal.  Presumably this extends to other objects, and at some stage GW will produce a huge range of scenery featuring lost bicycle and fridges dumped in troll lairs to reflect this.  Or,
  • Games Workshops designers are infantile adolescents who spend all day listening to Iron Maiden and haven't met any girls yet.  They still believe nothing is cool unless it has a pile of skulls involved.
I'll let you be the judge of which is most likely.

Anyway.  These were fun to paint, but I'm glad I didn't need to build them.  I don't see a need to invest in any for myself either, but as they are now part of the permanent collection of my gaming venue, I shan't need to either.  Neat eh?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amphipolis 422bc refought

My first game of Hail Caesar, finally; I seem to have waited an age to get round to this, despite wanting to give it a try straight away.  Mark set up a refight of the Battle of Amiphipolis, which perfectly allowed my Spartan army of Brasidas to face his Athenians.

The battle opened the Athenians attempting to withdraw, having feared (wrongly as history showed) the arrival of Spartan mercenaries outside the gates of Amphipolis, which they were beseiging. 

On seeing this, Brasidas stormed out with 150 chosen men from one city gate, whilst the rest of his army, under Cleridas, left from another.  Brasidas was determined to catch the Athenians whilst they were unready to fight (typical aggressive yet underhand Spartan tactics).  We took this as the starting point for the game, with my mass of Spartans and Thracians bottled up in one corner as if leaving the city.

I dashed forward my Thracians to cut off the exit route for the Athenians, allowing time for my Hoplites to advance.

Battle was soon joined.  In terms of orders and movement it is much like Black powder, but with a few obvious exceptions.  Movement rates are halved, and when forces come within 12 inches of one another they must conform to their frontages, or withdraw.  This avoids too much sneaky manoeuvring.

Commanders are encouraged to be less effective, but brigade orders are more flexible so there is some balance, a lot of the troops will act on initiative once within 12 inches, as the alternatves are limited.

Combat joined when both the Thracians and Brasidas' men charged; whilst the Athenian centre formed a battle line.  Hand to hand combat is naturally stressed in HC over BP and so units can typically take twice as many hits before becoming shaken.  Break tests are similarly revised so that troops often retire rather than it being a relative rarity in  BP.

Marks Athenians to the north pushed back the Thracians, but in doing so exposed a flank to a well supported Spartan phalanx, which smashed and scattered them; whilst Brasidas threw back Cleon's men to the south. 

The Thracians attacked a second phalanx whilst the Spartans and Levy troops from Amphipolis shut the door on escape north.

Support is an important feature of combat and is more hands on than in BP, though resolution as a result depends solely on casualties caused.  The Thracians got into a long grinding match with the Athenians, who thanks to their Phalanx formation could count a defeat of up to two points as a draw, and so avoided several break tests; despite taking steady losses.

Meanwhile my Psoiloi to the north encircled and contained the Athenian light troops.  Cleon attempted to get his Phalanxes to refuse a flank to the north and counter my advances, but instead they blundered into a headlong rush at the light infantry before them; who wisely scattered to safety.

This left the Athenian centre horribly exposed and the less able parts of my army were nonetheless able to exploit the situation and cause great and horrible slaughter.  It was all Cleon could do to revise his lines and hope  to hold.

At the same time he threw two Phalanxes at Brasidas' beleaguered force, but was beaten back.  By some miracle 150 Spartans had prevailed.  Brasidas was wounded, but Cleon lay slain on the battlefield. 

Unlike BP in HC commanders specifically add dice to combat, but at a steadily increasing level of personal risk.  The can quite definitely get killed.  So it was for Cleon.  By this stage the Athenians were broken, and retreating wherever possible.

This was a glorious victory for Sparta, almost as great as the historical outcome; Sparta suffered one Broken phalanx, to the enemies loss of five and his commander.  On the day both Cleon and Brasidas were killed, but Brasidas lived long enough to know he was victorious, so perhaps the only difference here was the gods smiling a little more on Brasidas's fate.

As for the rules, well I smile on them too.  It will take more than one game to learn all the details, but they seem as expected, fast to pick up and easy to understand, with the fast organic style of play I am used to from Black Powder.  The next challenge is to run the game myself and see how that goes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fighting on the Dock of the Bay...

I had the good fortune to pop the proverbial cherry on a brand new gaming set up at the LWGC the other week.  Notionally for Freebooters Fate it is a dockside set up with a vaguely West Indies or Mediterranean feel about it.  This was quite acceptable to our game of Anima Tactics.

Myself and Jo were to be pitted against Neil's Empire of Abel; my regular foil at the minute, and a tough nut to crack.  The first issue raised by the battlefield was the need to decide either to split our deployment either side of the dock, or to go for both sides.  As Neil could and did choose to spread out we felt obliged to follow suit, though if It'd been just down to me I'd have refused one flank and gone in heavy down the other.

Today the Black Sun Corporation had hired a large number of Wanderers from oriental lands to aid our cause.  Not strictly within our permitted list builds, but it meant we could up the game to 400 levels, a big fight in Anima Tactics terms, with both sides fielding nine models each!  Gosh.

One of Neils was an initially daunting looking suit of armour, Macbeth, and at 75 levels potentially fearsome.  Here you can see it striding towards the oriental contingent on the right.

First I unleashed the Clover killer move - Prometheum.  However, if I'm honest, I did so too early.  Although he took two minor opponents out the fight straight away, one permanently, he then got embroiled whilst vulnerable.  Sophia was just (by less than a quarter inch) out of range to buff him back to safety, which left him to get hacked down.  Must remember more restrain in future, get the Type 005's busy in combat first so that the enemy can't just jump all over Clover when he goes in.

Fortunately Neil needed to consider the same problems with Macbeth.

Our martial artists threw him around; unable to dodge as he was making him and easy to hit, if tough, target.  His 28 life points (10-12 is average) drained away to a succession of attacks from all three characters around him.  Soon he was done for, but we had ignored a little girl with a very big hammer in doing so...

Erika turned out to have a deadly attack with a 2 inch range, which neatly took out all three of our warriors.  Damnation!  With no reserves available, it was the unlikely task of the usual suspects to hold up against the combat monster that is Neil's core Empire force.

Despite the Type 005's putting in more of a fight than normal, and Promethea surviving combat with Samiel*  It was clear the gig was up, and so whilst the last Type 005 kept the gang busy, the surviving girls, as usual scarpered.

Lovely scenery, a big game, and some learning points.  Tsubasa will from now on be close to Clovers side.  Clover needs to wait until the Type 005's are in combat, and the girls back the whole show up.  With that in mind we might just break the hegemony of the Empire!  

The game attracted a lot of attention, and not just for the new scenery, so I hope to see a couple more opponents coming up in future. 

*Incidentally, there is an annoying tendency in AT to have characters or attributes with very similar names; it makes clarity in some of these reports difficult to preserve!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Anima - Tsubasa Kurokami

After languishing on the painting desk for some time, an arranged game of Anima Tactics encouraged me to finish another Wanderer.  This time some combat muscle to back up Clover in my Black Sun team.

It was a real challenge to get both the red and bronze highlights right on the character, I didn't want to detract from the flow of the robes, and at the same time wanted to put a real polish on the armour.  Adding the glowing yellow Kanji was easier than I thought; as was the hair, which I thought would be a challenge, but actually was simple.  A base of blonde given a sepia wash then a recoat of blonde, followed by a light highlight.

In action Tsubasa should add some vital aggression to my team, being particularly good on the counterattack.  We shall see.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Boyes make Toys

Thanks to Jez over at Elf 'n Happiness for spotting this on the Victrix site:

There is no doubt that the internet has slowly but surely undermined the specialist model and hobby shops over the past few years. However, all is not lost for those that still like to make a personal trip to their local model and hobby shop. The retail chain, W Boyes & Co Ltd, have recognised that every high street needs a specialist model and hobby outlet and have decided to run a pilot scheme in a select number of their larger stores. This pilot will see a considerable amount of shop space being dedicated to a plastic modelling and hobby department, with kits, figures, paints and modelling equipment available for purchase.

The Victrix team are delighted to announce that W Boyes & Co Ltd will be selling the full range of Victrix plastic figure sets in 6 of their shops across the East Midlands and North of England. The 6 W Boyes & Co Ltd shops that will initially be carrying Victrix products are:

York - Victrix products available from Thursday 28th July 2011

Ilkley - Victrix products available from Thursday 4th August 2011

Arnold - Victrix products available from Friday 5th August 2011

Bridlington - Victrix products available from Thursday 11th August 2011

Scarborough - Victrix products available from Thursday 4th August 2011

Billingham - Victrix products available from Thursday 11th August 2011

If the pilot scheme is successful W Boyes & Co Ltd could potentially open "in house hobby departments" in 41 shops across the Midlands and the North of England. If you would like to see a return to the high street of a dedicated modelling and hobby retail outlet please get down to your local W Boyes & Co Ltd store and support this noble venture.
Boyes are pretty successful with other products that don't really have a niche anywhere, so lets hope this works out well for them.  It could certainly boost the hobby if it does.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sparta Immortal

With the arrival of Hail Caesar I've been working on some of the new (to me) Immortal Miniatures Spartans.  So far I've cranked out one unit solely of the models, and have enough left to make another unit with the addition of the left over metal miniatures from the last time I touched this project.

Some thoughts on the models as presented?  Well, they certainly look the part, but the actual detail reminds me of the 80's vintage metals I have in the back ranks of the army, a little soft, a little simplified at times.  Also annoyingly, the models are sold as a pack of 24 figures, but for want of some extra left arms the box contains enough parts for 32 models.  This is infuriating to the economy conscious gamer, for the sake of adding some spare parts they could have given the buyer better value. 

I don't think it's malicious, just poor organisation, at a basic 50p a model they are dirt cheap, but they could have made them cheaper still, as it stands it's more a case of giving you wasted plastic.  Better sprue design could have solved the problem too.  As it was I added parts from the bag of Numidian spares I kept to allow me to use all 32 figures.

I also thought it best to knock out a couple of generals, one with Immortal figures, the other with a characterful Black Tree mini:

He's a bit full frontal, but classically Spartan.  He'll make a fine General Brasidas.  A couple of rocks give him an excellent standpoint to oversee any action.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Don't Dwell on It!

One hears tales of the implausible victory and game that ends before it begins, but very rarely, you are the teller of the tale itself. 

I lined up my Dogs of War against James new Wood Elf army for a 1500 point game.  James had a large unit of Bowmen containing his General and Army standard, backed up by a couple of units of Dryads, a Treeman and a handful more bows.  I was using a version of my Dogs playing to their strength in mobility, with only one formed body of foot, the Cursed Company to act as a centre.

We rolled for the scenario and got Blood and Glory.  A game based on fortitude points.  Both sides had 5 points but mine were well dispersed where his were concentrated in his general's unit.

I got first turn and so moved to outflank James' position.  Then it was time for the magic phase.

Before hand I'd picked Life magic for one of my mages and they'd been lucky enough to roll up the Dwellers Below spell (ideal for knobbling feeble foes like Wood Elves).  I chanced casting it with six dice on James' main unit, rolling successfully without a miscast.  James failed to dispel it and lost his General, Army Standard and nine bows as a result.

It automatically meant he had lost on fortitude points.

Game over!

Oh how we laughed, neither of us had had such a short game.  Scarcely 5 minutes from start to finish.  To be fair we reset and picked a different scenario and James won a closer battle, but I do remain his bugbear opponent.  Though this one was purely down to luck!

Five minutes and no casualties on my side.  Can anyone top that?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dressed for the Occasion

A comment in relation to my last game of Warhammer sparked a thought or two with me last week.  Paul, the Grimsby Mariner considered that my Orc army had beat another similar Orc force as it was 'Dressed for the Fight'; that is to say painted.

 What you want to look at across that table...

Now I'm personally a hardliner on the subject of painted models on the gaming table; all my models should be completed, or at least close enough to it that at a cursory glance from a distance they appear so.  If you are a regular, you'll have rarely if ever seen a battle report on the blog without one fully painted army on the tabletop.  Mine. 

What you often get (nice retro models though)

However I can't enforce my own standards on my opponents, otherwise I wouldn't have many.  The hobby of course is different things to different people, but where I first started playing, painting your models was mandatory.  Unpainted figures were, and still are to my knowledge, not allowed on the table.  It's a strict policy I know, but one I still apply to myself, and certainly the best motivator to get paint on.

And to be fair, GW maintain much the same standards, if not so rigorous, as a demand of using models in their stores (aside from them only being GW models, natch) is that a minimum of three colour paint jobs be adhered to.  I think their ulterior motives for this can be challenged, but I'd rather play against badly daubed models than a sea of grey plastic, given the choice.  At least their owner has tried.

Actually, this demeans us both

The competition is all to some of course and matters such as painting their models or building scenery are secondary.  But really, if that is all you are into, why not play video games?  I mean if you are going to the trouble and expense of buying a bunch of toy soldiers, isn't it at least an idea to make them look nicer?  Moreover, do it well and unlike buying a new car or sports kit or whatever, they'll be worth more when you sell them than they cost.

And anyway, unpainted models are just soulless lumps of lead or styrene; painting them infuses them with character, makes them yours.  I'd rather wait to field my collection than chuck it straight out the box onto a board.

Besides they obviously fight better.

Sure, it takes time, and ability; but few painters got good on their first model; as the old adage goes, to get good at painting, do 500 bad paintings first.  And the rewards are there; it need not even take that long if you use the right techniques...

It's just a matter of sucking it up and doing that part of the hobby that takes a bit more effort.

Monday, July 11, 2011

In sewers, expect Rats

The theme this year has seemingly developed into one of skirmish games, not one I mind as space and money for gaming has never been at such a premium (well not since I moved to France for a while anyway!).  T'other week saw my first game of Freebooters Fate, against Jo's Goblins:

Now in the game, it would be fair to say that the Goblins are a metaphor for 17th and 18th century imperialist racism.  You know, it'd be in questionable taste, and not much fun to have a set of stereotypically black, or Chinese, or American Indian ex-slaves running around; well not at least if you are a German company and would consider our English political correctness markedly lax..

Anyway, I digress, the Goblins have thrown of the shackles of their masters and fight for their own cause.  Our game was to be set in the filth ridden sewers neath some pirate metropolis.

The rules, well simplicity themselves; players alternate activating characters, who can do two simple actions (for example move or fire) or one complex action (reload a musket, charge an enemy).  Of we both set, looking only for vengeance on our opposite numbers.

When combat reared its head, the method was by the selection of attack and defence cards.  There are six possible locations to attack: the head, torso, legs, left and right arms, and abdomen (more entertainingly called the Underlove region in the original German).  Typically an attacker selects two target areas, and the defender three.  If the defender does not select all the areas to defend that you attack, you score a hit.  Obviously this basic system favours the defender, but aiming or charging increase the attack value, whilst being caught from behind or whilst knocked to the ground reduces defence.

It's a fun system, though slower then lobbing dice, much more involved.

My Pirates were having the better of the Goblins who were pretty weak, if numerous; though both of us had bullet proof leaders who shrugged off damage.  Damage from successful hits is determined by the damage rating of the weapon, plus the value of a random card from 1-10; minus much the same for the opponent.  It appeared on the day, both our leaders had come in their Iron trousers.

However after 8 turns they were both dead, and I made a last dash for glory with a charge at one of his few remaining goblins.  The terrain rules here foiled me, with their simple logic.  To jump a gap your move must clear it entirely in a single movement (typically 10cm); the charge is double but must be in a straight line, turned out the straight line gap was 12cm, so splash!

In the water meant I was as good as a casualty, at least until I got out again.  And so The goblins won narrowly.  What have I said before about learning experience?

Simple rules, and indeed free of the sort of fancy rules for characters that lead to flawed, unbalanced army builds.  Ingenious (if, I'll say, not all that revolutionary) game mechanics, and the excuse to put on pirate accents and say 'Arrgh' a lot!  Yes, it's a great little game.

Now begins the quest to get a pirate ship...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


It's late and a less than stellar weekend is coming to an end, but with the last of my Calimocho to finish I manage to get enough of a signal on my questionable broadband connection to pop up a couple of photo's of recent projects, bot quickies. 

Firstly I found a cheap piece of resin scenery in the bottom of a box of junk I was given and knocked up this:

A ruined herd stone.   Made ruined by the simple expedient of hitting it with a steel ruler a few times to put those neat fresh breaks in.  No complexities in the paint job, other than to say the green affect is a reasonably effective attempt at lichen growth.

Next up, some more of the Zvezda Art of Tactic models, for eBay:

1940 model KV1's.  Excellent little six-part kits at around £2.75 each, a bargain compared to any resin or metal model on the market.  Already for sale on eBay and hopefully they will turn a neat little profit, as I have plans for the Spartans (especially after watching '300' last night - not as bad as I expected) and a Pirate ship...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Orc Civil War

My first game with the new Orcs and Goblins book for Warhammer was a couple of weeks ago now, but like I've said, there's something of a lag on my game reports.

Anyway, this was a game to introduce a new player to Warhammer, and as it happened we both turned up with Orc armies.

Our two armies showed the difference experience makes, his was heavy on Orcs but light on Goblin units and what there was he deployed on a flank.  With only one unit of Goblins it was obvious where his Fanatics, if any would be; so I was able to deploy my Goblin heavy, Fanatic laden army away from them.

My forces were able to control the initial moves, although the terrain was a marginal inconvenience to me.  My fanatics released nice and early and spent a lot of time, along with my Doom Diver, smashing his Black Orc unit and Orc Big Uns.

Meanwhile his Goblins were stuck out on a limb in a formation that didn't really help their cause.  He sent his Trolls in against my own Big Uns, but they were so slow to react that the boys simply hacked them down.

Still they came on, depleting their numbers as they did so stumbling into my Fanatics.  He had a little success against my bumbling Savage Orcs (a unit I always take, but never rely on), but failed to pursue, and then allowed himself to be distracted by the rallied remnants.  In the centre a handful of his Big Uns came off worse against my Goblin bowmen; setting up the chance for me to roll his flank.

His Black Orcs made contact around the same time, but found themselves on the end of a losing engagement with my Warboss, forty Big Uns and thirty plus spear armed goblins in their flank. 

Unsurprisingly I won the combat, and his last major unit fell to pursuit.

Definitely a triumph of experience, but my opponent won't learn by easy wins.  As for the new edition of the army list?  Well the units I have, aside from a few points changes haven't become much different.  There are new items in the book, sure, but I'm unlikely to buy any of them so their not an issue.  The new animosity rules and spell lists are better than the old edition, if a little less flavourful, and as seems to be the case with new army books there are a lot less magic items to play with. 

I have my doubts about the £25 price tag for a fairly thin hardback book, but it is full colour, and hey, it's Games Workshop.  Whaddya expect?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Scenic Devices II

A lot of effort has been expended on my part in the last few weeks on my little project for LWGC/NightOwls.  Several evenings were simply spent applying the tile adhesive to the surface.  Especially hard around the detailed bits!

Having got that out the way I spent two sessions just putting a base coat of chocolate brown on everything.

Two points here, firstly I forgot to do the edges at this stage, and secondly you can see here that the boards have warped somewhat.  There are a number of solutions to this of course, but not once the damage is done; it's a learning process of course, but next time thicker wood or a layer of foam first would have done wonders.  As it was the sealant didn't do enough.

Once the brown had dried, I could go back over it with several layers of green, initially a heavy over-brush of dark green, followed by several dry brush layers rising to a yellowy lime.

Additionally the roads, woods and fields had differing finishes applied.

Not quite finished then, but near enough to get a real impression of them.  Still things to do, but the Italian Sahariana's don't seem to mind (no sign of an enemy, so their happy!)

So a six by four table is pretty much done in a suitably generic fashion.  Next up are the trenches and then the parts for the village.  But before that I'm sure they'll have seen their first games and no doubt some wear and tear too.


Monday, July 04, 2011

Arrh! Ye Scurvy Dawgs!

Much of my painting output in June ended up as a single subject, for another skirmish game:

Freebooters Fate is a German game with tasty figures and simple game play, that doesn't readily lend itself to being ruined by Cheesy play; the game itself features an alternate reality, with a few elements of fantasy (it features goblins and a hint of magical effects), but I have to forgive that given it contains, well, Pirates!

Being a skirmish game, I've spent a lot more time than normal on the models, and so alongside other major, non-painting, projects of late I produced a lot less in the month.  still I have a full crew for the game now.

First of these are the deckhands, essentially the core choices.  My starter set contained a standard Pirate with a pistol and a Chuchillo, or knife expert.

Next up are a couple of specialists, firstly for me is 'The Lady', a woman of mystery who wields a huge axe cum pistol.

The skirt was very satisfying to complete, but then so were many of the other details here.  Is it me or does she look a bit like Angelina Jolie?

Incidentally the bases are a metal textured plate that fits into the plastic former.  An odd solution and one that I'm not convinced works perfectly.

My other specialist is another woman; Curly Ann.

Very nice to have a go at a different skin tone, lovely rich colours as a whole.  Not wholly convinced by the pose, but it remains my favourite despite that.

Finally you need a leader, and my starter set provided Captain Rosso:

A big and complex model, I should really have left the cot off until the end.  Still the overall effect was pleasing.  A real riot of colour.

I was particularly happy with coat in the end.  Painting 150 British scarlet jackets really cues you for doing a number on an object like this.

And so these are ready for the table.  I had time to start another project in June, but not finish it, so the measly results of these, some Napoleonics generals and four half tracks is that I only scored myself a feeble 23 points on the month.

Quality, not quantity.